Norway’s constantly globe-trotting foreign minister, Børge Brende, was in Mumbai, India on Tuesday, where he among other things re-opened a Norwegian general consulate. It was the latest in a recent series of embassy- and consulate closures and openings, most of which are motivated by prospects for business and trade.
“India’s economy is growing by more than 7 percent a year,” Brende declared. “The country is an important market for Norway and, as the world’s largest democracy, there is also increasing political cooperation.” He said the consultate will make it easier to carry out services for Norwegians and Norwegian businesses.
The ministry has been closing other consulates and embassies this autumn, including the embassy opened in the presence of Crown Prince Haakon and ex-Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre in Kazakhstan just five years ago. Norwegian oil company Statoil had, at the time, viewed Kazakhstan as important and had entered into an agreement with local authorities in the Central Asian dictatorship regarding oil production in the Caspian Sea. The project fell apart two years later and Statoil has since cut its staff in the capital of Astana. The embassy wound up getting cut as well, with newspaper Aftenposten reporting last month that it would close around New Year.
Norway is also closing embassies in Bulgaria, Zambia and Zimbabwe, while Norway’s diplomatic presence in South India and Haiti is being boosted. Ministry spokesman Frode O Andersen said that Norway’s economic interests and trade in Central Asia, for example, “is today quite limited. And that’s the basis for the embassy (in Kazakstan) being closed.” Telenor has been involved in Uzbekistan through its long- and now acutely troubled investment in Russian mobile phone firm VimpelCom, but Uzbekistan is handled through Norway’s embassy in Moscow.